Government grants local councils more betting shop powers

28 April 2014

The UK government has announced that local councils are to be given more powers to decide whether more betting shops should open in their individual constituencies.

UK public-service broadcaster the BBC said the new measures would enable councils to refuse planning application if they are concerned about the number of shops in their local area.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport explained that local authorities are becoming increasingly concerned about the “clustering” of betting shops in some areas and the new measures would help to counter the situation.

However, bookmakers have previously said that the number of shops has remained relatively static for the past decade.

The move forms part of a review of gambling policy in the UK, which is due to be announced by the government later this week.

The Government said it is keen to give local communities a “proper voice on the issue so that their views are taken into account when plans for a new betting shop are submitted”.

Under the current regulations, planning applications are not always required for new betting shops to open with bookmakers able to move into premises left empty by businesses considered to be in the same category, such as banks and estate agents.

However, the new changes will place bookmakers in a different class so that councils are able to consider such applications.

The government will also make it mandatory for gambling operators to show how they would comply with measures to protect players when they apply for a licence.

Plans are also in place to introduce further measures to help protect people that play fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

The government has already confirmed that the tax rate on FOBT would increase to 25% and it is also keen to make voluntary warnings over addiction to become tougher and mandatory.

These plans have been criticised by groups such as the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB), which claimed they could lead to the closure of 7,800 betting shops and the loss of 39,000 jobs.

The ABB has recently launched a petition against the measures, instructing staff across the UK’s 9,000 betting shops to gather a minimum of 100 signatures from each shop.

The Campaign for Fairer Gambling has hit out against the petition, citing research from NERA Economic Consulting that suggests the potential effect of the measures has been overstated.

A Campaign for Fairer Gambling spokesperson said: “Unpublished reports, flawed claims, overstated arguments and now a petition. There is now cross party support for action on FOBTs not just in Parliament, but across voters.

“Voters want urgent action on FOBTs and they want that done with a reduction in stake. They don’t believe the ABB when they say their new code of conduct is the answer, because they’ve seen it before and it failed then just as it will this time.”

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